Foothill viewing party celebrates rare blue moon eclipse

Last Wednesday morning before the sun rose, Foothill College held an event to view the lunar eclipse taking place between 4 and 6 A.M.  The college opened up their observatory to the public, and many astronomy enthusiasts brought their own cameras and telescopes to view the eclipse.

Dr. Geoff Matthews, a professor of Astronomy at Foothill, was the primary driver of the event.  The viewing party was especially unique, due to a combination of factors which have not aligned in over 150 years.

“There’s actually three different things happening this morning,” said Matthews, informing the onlookers.  “First off, the big thing is there’s the lunar eclipse, but also it’s a blue moon, which is the second full moon in one month.  It’s also a super moon — the moon’s orbit is not perfectly circular, and right now it’s closer to the Earth, and so appears 14% larger.”

The sight was certainly spectacular, drawing both young and old to parking lot four on the Foothill campus, which quickly filled to capacity.  The school provided coffee, which kept everyone awake and warm in the cold hours of the morning.

Agnis, a local community member, said that even though she’s not a student, she “was on twitter, and someone had tweeted where to watch, and [she] wanted to see the moon.”

In addition to viewing the rare occurrence, the event was held to explain the details of the eclipse.  Students armed with charts explained the phases of the moon, while curious onlookers could actually go inside the observatory and view the moon through Foothill’s telescope.  

“This has only been possible because of our partnership with the Peninsula Astronomical Society,” Matthews said.  “They’re super pros at operating the observatory.”  

Those more interested in stars and the cosmos can take Astronomy 10b — which also includes an optional honors component — with Professor Matthews in the spring.  Foothill also opens their observatory to the public on Fridays from 9pm to 11pm, and Saturdays from 10am to noon.